Limerick and 7’s rugby are a perfect match

Colm Kinsella

Reporter:

Colm Kinsella

Munster players CJ Stander, Luke O'Dea and Ronan O'Mahony pictured at the launch of Limerick World Club 7's which takes place at Thomond Park on August 9 and 10
FORMER England and Lions hooker, Peter Wheeler believes next month’s World Club 7s event and host venue Thomond Park are the perfect match.

FORMER England and Lions hooker, Peter Wheeler believes next month’s World Club 7s event and host venue Thomond Park are the perfect match.

A selection of top clubs from the northern and southern hemispheres will battle it out for supremacy in the first ever World Club 7s event in Ireland, taking place at Thomond Park on August 9 and 10. The event is set to take place in Limerick for the next five years.

Peter Wheeler, who is one of the principals of World Club 7s and has served as CEO of English Premiership side, Leicester Tigers since 1996, said he believed Limerick was an ideal host city for such an event.

Speaking on a visit to Limerick, Wheeler said: “The Limerick 7s sounds right. Having been over here for Munster games in my role with Leicester and other occasions as well and the relationship we have had with Munster over the past 15 years in the Heineken Cup, I knew this would be the right place fro such an event.

“7s rugby is big around the world with Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 Olympics. It will be a medal sport. Countries see an opportunity here. The IRB have had their World 7s series for six or seven years. I played the Hong Kong 7s in 1980 and 1981 with the Barbarians.

“Premiership Rugby have had a 7s competition for the 12 Premiership clubs for about the last four years. It was been sponsored by one of banks. The following week they put in the World Club 7s.

“The fact you will have Munster v Fiji on the Saturday night of the club sevens competition in Thomond Park - what a fantastic fixture to end the first day with. To make it a 7s festival involving the whole community - I love the idea of the embassies in the pubs attached to each teams, creating a community.

“It won’t be Hong Kong, Dubai or Wellington. It will be Limerick and what they will feel like, no one really knows. A lot of hard work has gone on getting people involved.

“It should be a terrific weekend.”

Colm McMahon’s Munster 7s side have been drawn in Pool C against Fiji’s famous Daveta side in the last match of day one of the World Cup 7s event.

The draw for Pool C has also seen USA face Russia with San Francisco taking on Moscow. Pool A will see New Zealand’s Auckland Rugby play South Africa’s Vodacom Blue Bulls, New York City 7s and England’s mighty Saracens.

Former Leinster coach, Michael Cheika will be welcomed back to Ireland as his Waratahs side face South Africa’s DHL Western Province, Vancouver and Stade Français.

The pool matches will all take place on Saturday with the next stage and ultimately the winning club emerging from the Sunday play-offs, and this event will be staged in Thomond Park for five years, up to 2018.

Peter Wheeler represents Leicester Tigers on the board of Premiership Rugby Limited and is the Aviva Premiership Clubs’ representative on the board of European Rugby Cup Limited. He represents Premiership Rugby Limited on the RFU Professional Game Board. He is also a Director of England Rugby Ltd and England Rugby Partnership Ltd.

Wheeler played 349 times for Leicester and captained the club for five seasons.

Played 41 times for England and toured twice with the Lions to New Zealand (1977) and South Africa (1980), playing in seven Tests.

Wheeler’s Leicester club became the first side to win at Thomond Park in the Heineken Cup in 2007, ending the home side’s 26-game winning run in the competition at the venue, a record which stretched back over 12 seasons.

Wheeler recalled: “I didn’t play at Thomond Park in my career. I did play for the Irish Wolfhounds side which played Munster when they were getting ready to play the All-Blacks in 1978. They had a warm-up game. Jean-Pierre Rives played in the side. I can’t remember the result.”

“(Leicester’s 13-6 Heineken Cup win at Thomond Park) It was an amazing night. We have an affinity with each other. We are different, but with similarities in terms of our support, our history and that sort of thing which we treasure.

“It was outstanding. The weather was atrocious. Munster should have kicked the penalty when they went for another scrum. Little things like that win games. I wasn’t playing - but it remains one of the highlights of my career, one of the best memories I have.

“That win is a highlight in those players’ careers and something that can never be taken away from them. It was eight years ago and we still talk about it fondly.

“I can remember going into pubs here in Limerick after the game absolutely drenched and people buying us beers. Munster supporters were saying ‘well done, lads. You deserved that, have a beer.’ We were in the hotel until God knows what time!”

The action at the World Club 7s kicks off at Thomond Park on Saturday, August 9 at 11.30am,with gates opening at 10.30am. The on-field action will continue until 6.45pm. The 7s action will continue between 11.30am and 5.30pm on Sunday, August 10.

Daily ticket prices will cover the whole day, with special limited ticket offers of kids tickets from €5 per day or €10 per weekend, and adults from €15 per day, €25 per weekend. Tickets are on sale through www.ticketmaster.ie. See www.worldclub7series.com for more details on the event.